‘Torchwood: Station Zero #2’ reviewed

❉ Station Zero is a Torchwood story that enthusiastically embraces its connections to Doctor Who.

The caption in the first panel sets the tone:

“Station Zero
Far below the Arctic Circle
So far down, even Jules Verne would freak.”

The creative team on Titan Comics’ current ‘Torchwood’ series, Station Zero, are serious about telling a good story and equally serious about making it fun. This is hardly surprising since a key member of that team is Captain Jack himself, John Barrowman.

Aided and abetted by his frequent writing partner (and sister) Carole as well as artist Neil Edwards (who’s pretty much done it all in terms of well-known comics characters), Barrowman clearly wants to present a quintessential incarnation of ‘Torchwood’ post-Miracle Day. Filled with cool alien tech, an underlying sense of mystery and Jack’s love-hit relationship with Captain John Hart, this more adventure-oriented model keeps Jack’s angst in the background, allowing him to be closer to the dashing con-man the Doctor and Rose Tyler met on “volcano day”.

This is fitting for a ‘Torchwood’ story that enthusiastically embraces its connections to ‘Doctor Who’. The TV episodes often veiled the references to their parent show, as if they were hesitant to be too closely identified with it. This was particularly apparent with Miracle Day, which in many respects felt like a totally different world even when the scenes shifted to Wales.

Some will feel compelled to point to the negative influence of American co-production for that last bit, but that’s beside the point. Miracle Day is the past, and Station Zero is the team’s future. Once Jack mentions the Slitheen family, it’s clear that ‘Torchwood’ has come home, even if the action actually feels further-flung than any of the TV episodes.

Comics are the ideal medium for this particular incarnation of ‘Torchwood’, because they allow the scope of the story to come through without any worries about budget constraints. Big or small, everything from cavernous laboratories to personal force-shields conveys a sense of out of the ordinary realism that fits perfectly thanks to Neil Edwards.

Edwards, who drew last year’s ‘Doctor Who’ miniseries Supremacy of the Cybermen, isn’t just adept at the settings but also those inhabiting them. Some artists’ work suggests that they’ve never seen a human body – or only did so under the influence of hallucinogens. Some may prefer a more expressionistic approach, but the good likenesses (especially Jack) in believable settings are what the story calls for and Edwards delivers.

Above all, the writing is a pleasure. It remains to be seen just where the plot – and the mystery of the alien Navigators – is heading, but the road is enjoyably bumpy, especially the dialogue. It isn’t just the established characters, though, the lines between Jack and Gwen really do sound in your head as if John Barrowman and Eve Myles are playing the scenes. Even the crew-members of Torchwood’s new shipboard HQ the Ice Maiden get in on the fun.

“Find out everything you can about our stowaway. Use your back channels.”
“I love when you talk dirty.”

Moments like this combined with those knowing captions that would wink at you if they could set a tone. You might not want every ‘Torchwood’ storyline to be like this, but Station Zero the right one at this moment. Surely Jack would approve of that sentiment.

❉ ‘Torchwood: Station Zero #2’ (Writers: Carole Barrowman, John Barrowman; Artists: Neil Edwards, Antonio Fuso, Pasquale Qualano) is on sale 8 March 2017. Available in print from Titan Comics, £2.65 and digitally from Comixology, £2.49.

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